Todays meeting was held in the main Church premises and was opened on time by Chairman Peter Staples with six apologies having been offered. Members attention was drawn to the launch of a new Harrogate and Knaresborough fund-raising group for the British Heart Foundation with the launch meeting being on Tuesday March 28th at 6p.m. in The White Room which is upstairs in The Pit, The Ginnel, Harrogate HG1 2RB and anyone interested is welcome to attend. Members were also advised that the menu and reply form for the 40th Anniversary Lunch (May 2nd) will be given out next week with a last date for booking being Tuesday April 11th due to the Easter break.
Todays talk was given by Les Parkes, in his second year as a Forum Member, but well-known in the area as he was a Liberal Democrat County Councillor for a number of years and a Governor at Rossett School for 10 years. As Chairman of the Yorkshire and Humber Branch of the European Movement (origins 1948 under Winston Churchill’s Chairmanship) and a member of the Movement’s National Council his topic of “European Perspective” was highly appropriate but presented in a non-political or partizan manner and which consisted of his own experiences in Europe from a young age, during his National Service and then from his travels during his business career. He shared the information that his father had shaken the hand of Adolf Hitler at the Berlin Motor Show in the 1930’s and that his own education preferences had seen him choose languages (German and French) as opposed to sciences. We were treated to his reminisces about Germany particularly Berlin and the Berlin Wall during the Cold War period and the differences between East Germany and West Germany. During his National Service Les was based in Bergen Hohne (close to Belsen) and apparently missed Elvis Presley by about two months!! The educational priorities of East Germany were mentioned as well as the overweening presence of the Stasi in the everyday life of the country. Anecdotes about Poland, Czechoslovakia,, Yugoslavia and Romania were shared with the latter country having a dreadful reputation from the Ceausescu era and for being a byword for corruption. A number of audience members had also experienced National Service in Germany ,and Berlin in particular, including duty at Spandau prison and these experiences were also shared as well as a number of questions being asked.
The Vote Of Thanks on behalf of the thirty-five attendees was given by Vincent Naylor.
NEIL RAMSHAW SECRETARY